Have you ever said something out of impulse and immediately realized that it wasn’t correct? Or have you ever read something online and immediately typed a comment without thinking about your response first?
I confess. I’m guilty of both. But I also admit that I am learning to pause before hitting the “enter” button before I post a comment or a reply to another’s comment. Unfortunately, I have had to learn this lesson the hard way at times.
Something that happened recently comes to mind.
I was scrolling through Facebook when I read the following post: “There has not been any pastor forced to perform same sex weddings.” My immediate thought was “that is not true.” I had heard of pastors who had been forced to perform such ceremonies, but I couldn’t call them by name at the moment so … I Googled it, of course. I copied and pasted the link to the first hit – without reading it – into the comments section of the post. Several hours later, the person who made the original post responded to my comment.
He informed me that the link I shared was not even about a church pastor, rather a for-profit wedding chapel minister. And the wedding chapel minister was the one pressing charges, not the LGBT community.
Needless to say, I had messed up. In an effort to prove a point, I gave a bad example because I failed to pause and reflect on what I had written.
Although there is a list of stories that prove, without a doubt, that religious liberty is under attack by the LGBT movement, what I shared in my lazy ignorance did not prove such. All it did was discredit my future discussions with this person, at least until I can regain his trust.
So why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to challenge you – like I am challenging myself – to think before you speak and pause before you post especially when it comes to commenting on social media, specifically Facebook.
Here are some personal guidelines I have developed for myself and find to be helpful when navigating the big bad world of cyberspace. I encourage you to apply them as well.
Read a post in its entirety and think about it before responding.
This makes perfect sense, but we often find it easier to comment without reading, state our convictions and move on. Or we read the headline and assume what it means without reading the text of the post. We respond only to the headline, and by doing so, we make ourselves look foolish because it is obvious to those who have read the story that we have not. Posting an educated guess in an online discussion is rarely beneficial to anyone.
Always consider the source.
Everyone has a message or an agenda. Realizing this and identifying it helps us know what to filter and what to retain. I am not telling you to disregard reading posts from those with whom you disagree ideologically. Rather read them in small amounts with an open heart that is willing to learn. Oftentimes, this helps us see the flaws in our own thinking which in turn causes us to examine our hearts and strengthen our perspective.
It is also important to remember that most online correspondence lacks the face to face component of communication, meaning we cannot see the other person’s body language or hear a tone of voice. We should not assume someone is being rude because the response is short. And we also can’t assume the person behind the screen is really who he says he is.
Know when to comment and when to walk away.
Or in the words of Kenny Rogers:
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
In all seriousness, this is important because today many people speak solely from emotions and without substance. We all have read the comment threads in which it only takes two replies before one person is hurling personal insults at the other person. When name-calling, profanity, and vulgarity take the place of a discussion, it is best to firmly call them out in love and walk away.
Engage with truth.
When we choose to comment, how we do so is important. Our goal should be to deliver absolute truth, first, with clarity and in humility. In the words of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, “We know all truth always intersects with Scripture.” Ultimately it is those who are blind to absolute truth that we aim to persuade with the truth. Abrasive opinions and convictions can be distractions for those who believe differently, and they can also be immediate stumbling blocks. Let us remember that responding out of love is key to effective communication.